The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 15, Number 4, January 22, 2012, Article 13


Regarding the recent disclosure of thefts from the American Numismatic Association museum, Jan Monroe writes:

The solution to insider theft is to hire people that don't need the money. I suspect that there are enough rich or retired rich folks who would love to work in the ANA or ANS because of their love of numismatics. Age is an advantage in hiring in this case.

Well, they do have (or had at one point) retired volunteers who help catalog. But even the wealthy can be tempted to steal - it was Dr. Sheldon who looted the ANS collection by switching.

Speaking of hiring, the association is looking for (yet another) Executive Director. In the "nobody ever listens to me, but..." department, I feel compelled to write (yet again) what I've written here in the past. Attempts to find some White Knight from outside the organization are misguided. HR consulting firms will naturally cite study after study recommending that someone with experience running a national nonprofit be brought in to lead the ANA. But running the ANA would only be a stepping stone for some career nonprofit manager. What is needed instead is a knowledgeable, hardworking and honest person who has the interests of the hobby and the organization at heart.

For such a person, leading the ANA would be the pinnacle of their career, a capstone of years of service to the hobby. With people from other backgrounds the job is at best a waystation and paycheck, and as we have seen, at its worst an opportunity for shysters to suck it dry. The most widely respected ANA leader in memory is Ed Rochette. His background for the job? Editorship of The Numismatist and solid love for the hobby and its people.

Let's hope a sensible decision is made this time around. For something tells me the other shoe hasn't dropped yet. This movie isn't over, and the ending won't be pretty. An honest, respected leader may be the organization's last best hope.

Coin World editor Beth Deisher discussed the theft and ANA's security procedures in the January 18th issue. Of interest to bibliophiles, she also brought up the topic of security for the ANA Library's rare book room. -Editor

"How does one person steal at least 338 rare and historic coins from a museum vault in 73 days? (That's an average of more than four per day, counting weekends and holidays.)

"The question has yet to be answered.

"After the ANA realized that a large number of coins may be missing from its museum collection, it finally (in 2010) allocated the staff time and resources to conduct a full inventory and cataloged the entire collection plus established a current market value for its holdings.

"According to ANA President Tom Hallenbeck, the ANA has also beefed up its museum and vault security, adding cameras. He also says the ANA is reviewing its access protocols.

"While such measures are steps in the right direction, the ANA needs to also devote the resources to digitally photograph all of its numismatic holdings and publish at least its most significant holdings online to increase public awareness. Also, ANA needs to immediately devote resources to conduct a similar inventory and appraisal for its numismatic library holdings as well as developing a written acquisition and deaccession policy for the library, which holds many rare books.

"ANA's numismatic collection and library holdings are valuable assets, which its leaders are entrusted to secure and protect. They should learn from this theft and view it as an expensive wake-up call."

To read the complete editorial, see: Coin theft an expensive security wake-up call for the ANA (

If lax security procedures allowed one person to steal, did others have the same opportunity? Was Wyatt Yeager the only one with sticky fingers? Or will this investigation lead to the implication of others? Only time will tell.

By the way, I've been informed that the link published last week for the list of stolen items is broken. Try this: Items stolen from the ANA Money Museum collection (

On a related note, I wanted to mention some nice articles in the January 2012 issue of The Numismatist. John Kraljevich's column discusses his research into pistareens and sorting out the history of a bad translation from the French that had seeped into numismatic literature unchecked, and an article by Gene Hynds and Steve Ratliff on the short-tenured 24th Mint Director Fredrich von Engelken.

And back to the topic of theft from numismatic institutions, the 2011 Issue 4 of ANS magazine from the American Numismatic Society in New York features an article by Robert Hoge and Asylum editor David Yoon on a 1977 armed robbery where thieves made off with a trove of rarities including two 1737 Higley coppers and a 1792 pattern disme. Luckily, all the stolen items were later recovered. Hopefully the same may be said someday of the items taken from the ANA. -Editor

To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see: ANA MUSEUM LOOTED OF $1 MILLION IN RARE COINS (

Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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